Thursday, 15 April 2010


Transport in the uk is dull. When we set out on a journey there will normally be some form of timetable and if taking a car you can have a moderate idea by dividing the distance by the speed on a motorway and adding a bit for traffic etc. Transport in Nigeria is much more interesting, not only do you get the fun of negotiating the price you also get the simple joys of not know where you’ll arrive or the people you will meet on the way.

The main forms of transport can be divided down into the following types: motor bikes, bush taxis, buses, private cars and lorries.

In the developed world the judicious application of laws, safety standards and courtesy disappointingly hold back the full potential of transport. Nigerians are not limited by such problems, a car is only full when there are 3 people in the front, 4 people in the back plus enough animals to make Noah proud and a boot full of yams, all this in a golf.


Roads in Nigeria range from quite good duel carriageways to impassable streams of mud. The most dangerous roads are the good ones. Nigerians have fully embraced the digital revolution; accelerators have two settings on and off. In Birmingham it took years and months of computer modelling to design a traffic flow system which utilised the most number of lanes in the direction of rush hour, Nigerians do it by instinct.

Motorbike taxis are apparently named after a defunct airline, which pretty accurately sums up their potential. There is a factory in china which must churn these 75cc machines out by the million, they are the cheapest way of going from a to b, and normally the quickest through traffic.

An okada can carry almost anything, a family, 20 chickens and their eggs. One of the other volunteers had their double bed mattress delivered from across town on the back of one of these bad boys .

Apparently they cost around £500, which is pretty much a bargain.An okada can carry almost anything, a family, 20 chickens and their eggs. One of the other volunteers had their double bed mattress delivered from across town on the back of one of these bad boys.

Okada drivers are also proud of their uniform, despite 40 degree heat they will always be wear at least a jumper, preferably some form of ski wear. My favourite was a guy in French 70’s style pink and luminous yellow shell suit onesy, unfortunately i don’t have a photo.

For all the amusing things you can say about okadas , they are cheap, relatively safe (as they cant go that quickly) and can go places where even 4x4’s get stuck. Out in the villages they are the only form of transport, and provide an important way of rural farmers to gain access to markets for their goods.


In Kaduna Toyota mini-buses act as the predominate form of transport along its north south main road. They are cheap, packed and sweltering. The minibuses seat 10 passengers (4,4,2) a driver and a conductor. The bus fare as with all things in Nigeria depends on time of day, wind direction, moon phase and mood of conductor but ranges between 40-70N (15-30p). These buses also form a great way to interact with the local community as everyone below those who can afford their own car gets them and are normally surprised to see white people getting them and pretty chatty. They are also a great place to watch the occasional Nigerian amateur boxing match.

Bush taxis:

Bush taxi’s are just cars which run intercity motorpark to motorpark, there is no timetable you tunr up to the motorpark (every town has one or two) fend of the various people who grab you and try and push you into their car, find a car advertising the appropriate destination, negotiate the price and then wait for all the seats to fill up then the car goes. It sounds like a lot of hassle but once you get used to the system its actually pretty easy and allows quick and cheap if not comfortable travel.

The key advantage of bush taxi’s is the lack of hassle on the road, at police checkpoints and other miscellaneous roadblocks the drivers will simply drop N20 (10p) and sail through. They also seem to operate some form of union system which will send a new car from the nearest motorpark if your car has a serious breakdown (broken axel or better).

Private cars

These are both the safest and most dangerous way to get about. Safest in that you control the speed and maintenance standards but dangerous in that you are most likely to get stopped and have your car/papers etc ‘inspected’ by police or just have your car stopped until you pay the operators of the roadblock an amount of money (anything from N100 to N20,000).


Move large amounts of stuff from a to b, the more stuff the better and the more careless the driving the better.


There is a train which runs from one end of Kaduna to the other, I regularly overtake it in the bus. There is supposed to be an ‘intercity’ train which runs the 150km to Kafanchan in the south of Kaduna, it takes 6 hours but apparently does serve beer. I’ll report back on this magical means of transport soonish!


I was once stopped on the M25 for 2 hours because some cows had got loose on the carriageway. Not much chance of that happening here, the Fulani use roads as convenient ways to get cows to market and to the various rubbish piles which urban cows feed on. It makes an okada trip much more interesting if you have to weave through an oncoming herd.

Here are some other amusing photos of Nigerian transport in its many forms:

Aplogies about the length as usual, however you haven’t had an update in a while so thought you would all be able to handle a biggie.


  1. I take it you don't ride the camel into work every morning?

  2. Hey Rich,

    Whoa! The BBC weather thingy says is is raining - hope that isn't too much of a shock after all the sun.